The newspaper, though, was tedious, as usual. Since the elections were today, it featured profiles on all the candidates for the members of the priesthood to choose from.

Yeah, right. Choose.

I wish.

Leithan grinned at the page on Rilien Grayhound – his friend looked all proud and solemn on that photo. It didn't suit him. Leithan quickly skipped the page on Henten Eagle-Eye, he had no desire to see that man's face. It might take an axe to his already klar-fragile appetite and that would be a shame.

The article on Shay's brother, Shivan Stormwave, was the last one, and the shortest. They hadn't picked a very good picture, and they just mentioned some dull stuff, like that he'd graduated from Uptown School only seven years ago, clearly adding the 'only' to insist on how young he was, like jerks.

It wasn't even a strong argument; Rilien's younger brother Dalmis Grayhound sat on the City Council and he was twenty-five years old, same as Shivan.

They didn't even mention Shivan's ideas for the East Side. The New Ri Press was controlled by the City Lord anyway, and of course he didn't want anything to change, ever.

He sighed, pushing his empty plate away.

Leithan wished his friends would get here already. He had so many things to tell them.

When his wish came true and Rami Slyfox walked in a few minutes later, Leithan was pleasantly surprised.

"You're here early," he commented as Rami stepped over to the booth, closing his umbrella and dropping it on the velvet upholstery.

"And you're alive," Rami noted, tone only half-joking.

Rami sat facing Leithan, gray-sleeved arms on the table. His hair, closely-trimmed on the sides, longer on top, was frizzy from the humidity, tumbling over his forehead, inky black against the chocolate brown of his skin. Jia was already coming over.

"Let me guess, a double?" she asked him.

"Hey Jia!" Rami laughed. "Make it a triple. I couldn't sleep much, was too busy worrying about a certain someone."

Jia didn't comment on that, but smiled. "I'll be right back."

Rami stared at Leithan. "So? Spill. What happened after we left?"

Leithan sighed. Wondered if he should maybe wait for Shay so he wouldn't have to repeat the tale twice.

He stalled Rami with a question, "You guys got home okay? Koral made good on her word?"

Rami nodded, fingers worrying at the corner of the newspaper. "Koral's fine. I'm sure the others forced her to do it."

Leithan leaned forward, arms crossed. "Are you just saying that because you think she's the hottest girl on all of Asheth?"

"No," Rami said. Then, amended, "Maybe. Stop stalling me."

"Busted." Leithan leaned back in his seat, studying the low-beamed ceiling, the decorative lamps and plants hanging from it.

Rami angled his head. "Are you high?"

"Not for much longer, unfortunately," Leithan answered.

Jia came back with Rami's coffee, took his order.

"What's the pie today?" Rami asked.

"Pistachio lemon," Jia answered.

"I'll have that. Two please. I'm buying," he added for Leithan's sake.

Jia left, and Leithan joked, "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were into me."

Rami shrugged. "I know it's your favorite. Shay and me, we kinda have this rivalry going on, about which one of us is your best friend. I'm trying to score points."

"Well it's working," Leithan said. "Also, not that I want you to stop but, can't I have two best friends? Or is that not allowed?"

"According to Shay, it's not. She started it. I'm just playing along to annoy her," Rami explained. "So what did that ginger Yoxai dude want with you?"

Leithan frowned, looking out the window. He saw that old beggar, the one who always hung around the Hive at night. He'd managed to travel to the West Side again. He was sitting under a stall's roof, next to a fruit stand.

"His hair's not ginger, it's more copper-brown." Leithan turned to Rami.

"What's the damn difference?" Rami asked, taking a sip of espresso, licking his lips. "What did he want? Don't leave me hanging, man."

Leithan felt weariness seeping into his bones, fighting against the remaining klar in his system. It wasn't a pleasant sensation.

He opted for the short version. "When he realized I spoke Yoxai, he figured I knew too much, and he wanted to hold me captive, I guess. But the first chance I got, I ran away. And here I am."

"That's it?" Rami raised an eyebrow, clearly not buying it.

"Yeah," Leithan said.

Jia came back – saved by the pie. It had a thick yellow center, generously topped with roasted pistachios. She also gave them two glasses of water.

"You're an angel," Leithan told her.

"I know." She smiled and drifted away with a lighthearted gait.

Leithan made a note to self to someday ask Jia what was the secret to her happiness.

Then again, if it was a secret, he supposed that meant she couldn't tell him. 

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